It is no exaggeration to state that technology has revolutionised the way we learn and the way that we teach. In 2013 the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was established and its initial report, published in 2014 stated that 'the pace of technological change is accelerating and the impact of digital technology will continue to have a profound effect on the economic and social well-being of England, including the FE and Skills sector'. Technology has huge potential to inject interest, promote creativity and provide access across the curriculum. One of the main advantages being that so much of it is free.
For some teachers, however, the expectation to embrace and embed technology within our lessons creates anxiety, particularly when our own confidence and skills can hardly keep up with those of our 'digital native' learners. There can sometimes seem to be an overwhelming number of tools at our disposal as well as the feeling that we expected to be seen to be using technology for its own sake, rather than to support learning. Colleges' own virtual learning environments are now taken for granted and even these run the risk of becoming outdated, with new mobile platforms and cloud sharing options providing easier and more current ways to communicate with learners or to assess their work. Mobile devices are also often seen as an unwelcome distraction during class.
So what can we as teachers do to keep up with the pace, preparing learners more effectively for a digital future, helping them to develop digital literacy and to make use of their devices in more positive and productive ways?
- Use the experts. Most colleges will have at least one member of staff who is responsible for supporting teachers with resource design, training and support with ICT. Seek them out and pick their brains about which are the most effective learning tools. Talk to your colleagues too. I discovered flipquiz as a result of an informal staffroom chat.
- Start small. Choose just one of these to trial in your teaching, then expand this gradually to include more variety. Kahoot is a great assessment tool and its mobile quizzes recently took my own college by storm, but their over-use in some lessons meant that learners became bored and demotivated. Socrative provided a useful alternative, with more sophisticated ways of measuring progress.
- Collaboration. Gather feedback from learners and don't be afraid to seek their help. Ask them how they already use technology to learn and encourage them to think of creative ways to do this better, e.g. could they collaborate on projects using Dropbox, set targets using Padlet or simply create and edit video clips using their mobile devices? Encourage them to be critical, to evaluate both the tools they use and the information they access.
- Inclusion. Technology provides real options for learners with disabilities or learning difficulties. As well as adaptive software, many learners can participate fully in lessons using mobile devices as communicative and creative tools. It's worth checking with your awarding organisation whether alternative assessment arrangements can be made in order to allow learners to submit e.g. video evidence or podcasts as evidence of knowledge and skills.
- Think big. The world is now better connected than ever before, with so many opportunities to expand your own and learners' horizons. Start by linking up with other professionals to support your own development. #ukfechat is a vibrant, supportive community set up via Twitter specifically to share expertise and resources. Look for opportunities to hook up with groups of learners nationally or internationally for online exchanges using e.g. Twitter or Skype.